Celebrate the trumpet at the Guca FestivalGuca, Serbia
One of Europe’s most raucous festivals is tucked between rolling Serbian hills, a three-hour drive from Belgrade. For one week each August the quiet village of Guca becomes a mass of maniacal dancing, heavy drinking and enough brass to plate an empire as bands battle to win the coveted Golden Trumpet Award.
The town swells from 2,000 inhabitants to a whopping half-million as Serbs, Eastern Europeans and a smattering of international travellers converge to hear horn at its best. Said to warm the soul of the population, the trumpet heralds every important occasion, and festival goers celebrate their affection for the instrument with gusto.
Official competitors perform on stage from Friday through to Sunday, while gypsy orchestras and travelling bands jam in surrounding streets and restaurants, tooting Balkan tunes in exchange for cash licked and pasted to their sweaty foreheads.
Days begin with sticky shots of rakia (plum brandy) followed by gallons of local beer. Competitors’ tunes are rehearsed to perfection, but a din of vevuzelas sounds over the trumpets mingling with the chants of patriotism in the hot summer air.
Vegetarians beware – hundreds of pigs crisp on spits until they’re ready to be devoured with a mound of cabbage and litres of beer. Temporary stalls share slices of Serbian life, with weavers, tailors and cobblers hawking their wares as brewers pour homemade liquor with a generous hand. First held in 1961 with just a scraping of musicians, the festival survived decades of political turmoil and the trumpeters of Dragacevo continue to bust out brass like you’ve never heard before.
The festival’s free but there’s a small fee to bring a car into the town. A few euros buys you a patch of grass to pitch your tent, access to basic amenities and a field full of boozy new pals. If camping isn’t your thing most houses turn into homestays for those hoping to get away from the noise, but book in advance.